How do temporary restraining orders work in New Hampshire?

Separating fact from misconception

New Hampshire courts treat domestic abuse seriously. A priority of the courts is to remove from danger any family members who could potentially be at risk of domestic violence.

That is why New Hampshire allows emergency orders of protection, also sometimes known as temporary restraining orders, which can be granted immediately on a temporary basis. If the court is closed, these orders can be granted by telephone from a police station, which will last overnight until the court opens.

Emergency orders of protection prevent an alleged abuser from coming within a certain distance of family members and vacating the home, if applicable. Typically, emergency orders of protection last from three to five business days.

Because domestic violence is a sensitive and emotional issue, it can sometimes be hard to sort fact from misconception about restraining orders, particularly temporary restraining orders. Below you can find the basics of what a temporary order of protection is (and is not) in New Hampshire.

1. A temporary restraining order is not a criminal matter

Anytime you are dealing with domestic violence and the courts, it can feel as though a criminal proceeding is taking place. But orders of protection are not criminal matters.

This is important for several reasons. Unlike in criminal proceedings, a court does not need to find evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to issue an emergency order of protection. Instead, the court just needs to find it more likely than not that abuse has occurred or is at risk of occurring. Even if a court finds this to be the case, however, there is no finding that a crime has been committed.

2. The person alleged to be an abuser does not have to be present for a court to issue temporary restraining orders

Because it is not a criminal proceeding, the alleged abuser does not have to be at the temporary order of protection hearing in order for it to be enforceable. Everyone has the right to present evidence in their own defense if charged with a crime. However, since an ex parte hearing (Latin for “one party”) is not criminal, courts will issue temporary orders without the alleged abuser being present.

Orders for protection issued on an emergency basis are temporary and designed to remove the risk of domestic violence occurring. For a more permanent restraining order, courts require a hearing at which each side can present their side and supporting evidence. Each side has the right to an attorney at the hearing.

3. Violating an order of protection is a crime

Being the recipient of an order for protection does not mean you are guilty of anything. Violating a court order, however, is a crime and carries significant consequences. This includes being found in contempt of court and may lead to time in jail. It can also impact subsequent custody matters.

More questions?

During an emotional and tumultuous time, it can be difficult to know your options. If you have questions about domestic abuse laws, or what you can do in your situation, contact an experienced attorney in New Hampshire who is familiar with restraining orders.